Editor’s note: This report has been updated to clarify Jeff DeWitt’s allegations.
The chair of the Arizona Republican Party announced he will resign Wednesday after leaked audio appeared to show him attempting to pay Senate candidate Kari Lake not to run for office in 2024.
Jeff DeWit said that the audio was “selectively edited.” He explained, however, that he chose to resign because he was threatened by members of Lake’s team that more tapes would be released if he did not step down. Lake’s campaign has denied the allegation.
Lake publicly demanded DeWit resign over the audio Tuesday, calling him “corrupt” and “compromised.”
The audio recording was first reported by The Daily Mail.
“There are very powerful people who want to keep you out,” DeWit reportedly told the Senate hopeful in the recording, saying only that these figures were from the “east.”
“Just say, is there a number at which,” DeWit begins, before being cut off.
“I can be bought? That’s what it’s about,” Lake retorted.
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DeWit allegedly responded, “You can take a pause for a couple of years … You can go right back to what you’re doing.”
Lake — who ran an unsuccessful bid for Arizona governor in 2022 — said she would not accept a billion dollars to leave the Senate race.
On Wednesday, DeWit said the call was not a form of bribe, but rather a conversation about hiring Lake at his personal company. He said she was already an employee when the recording was made early last year.
“Contrary to accusations of bribery, my discussions were transparent and intended to offer perspective, not coercion,” the outgoing GOP chair wrote in a statement. “Our relationship was based on friendship, and the conversation that is now being scrutinized was open, unguarded exchange between friends in the living room of her house.”
“I genuinely believed I was offering a helpful perspective to someone I considered a friend,” he added.
FILE – In this Nov. 15, 2016, file photo, Arizona State Treasurer Jeff DeWit steps into an elevator at Trump Tower in New York. The U.S. Senate has confirmed DeWit as chief financial officer for NASA, setting the stage for his resignation. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
He continued, saying Lake has been “on a mission to destroy” him since the conversation, and condemned her “disturbing tendency” to record interactions without the other party’s consent.
“This is obviously a concern given how much interaction she has with high profile people including President Trump,” DeWit argued. “I question how effective a United States Senator can be when they can not be trusted to engage in private and confidential conversations.”
He also alleged that the conversation was a “set up,” adding that Lake “orchestrated this entire situation to have control over the state party.”
“This morning, I was determined to fight for my position,” he continued. “However, a few hours ago, I received an ultimatum from Lake’s team: resign today or face the release of a new, more damaging recording.”
“I am truly unsure of its contents, but considering our numerous past open conversations as friends, I have decided not to take the risk,” he added.
In response to DeWit’s resignation and allegations of threats, Lake’s campaign said the “tape speaks for itself.”
“No one from the Kari Lake campaign threatened or blackmailed DeWit. It is unfortunate that Dewit hasn’t recognized how unethical his behavior was and still hasn’t apologized to Arizona Republicans,” senior advisors Caroline Wren and Garrett Ventry said in a statement.
“DeWit’s false claims are just par for the course,” they continued. “The Arizona GOP must be relieved to have his resignation. Now we can focus on getting ethical leadership and win big in 2024.”
DeWit served as the state party chair since January 2023, after working as the chief operating officer for Trump’s 2016 and 2020 White House bids.
Lake, a former news anchor, has faced pushback against her Senate bid. She has been a leading booster of former President Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of election fraud in the 2020 election, and fought her own legal battle after the gubernatorial loss in 2022.
She said Tuesday that she didn’t have anyone in mind to replace DeWit.
“I haven’t given it a lot of thought. What I want to do is make sure we get the corrupt people out,” she said.
It’s not the first time Lake has been accused of recording others without consent. Last year, she recorded an impromptu airport lounge conversation with Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) — the presumptive Democratic nominee for the Senate seat — confronting him over policy issues.
Lake, DeWit and the Arizona GOP have not responded to a previous request for comment on the recording.
–Updated at 3:58 p.m.